My Top 7 Films of 2014

Well, as I have a reputation for punctuality, I think writing a Best Of list only a month late is gather gratifying.  2014 was an interesting year for me personally, but from a sitting in a dark room watching flickering light perspective, it was rather good.  Now because everyone makes up their own rules for these sorts of things, here are mine:

  • I must have seen the film in 2014
  • It must be "new", as in released in 2014
  • Film Festivals and Previews I was present at in 2014 count

So, why top 7?  Well, five is boring and everyone does ten.  Plus seven is a good complete number.  Says so in scripture.  Look it up.  So, without further waffle, here are the seven best films I had the pleasure of watching in 2014.

Number Seven

Next Goal Wins

This is the story of American Samoa's attempt to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.  So, I see I've lost you already, but give me just a second.  In 2001, American Samoa traveled to Australia to play a qualifying game for the 2001 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.  They lost 31-0, Archie Thompson scored 13 goals.  The American Samoa goalkeeper Nicky Salapu never forgave himself and the team plummeted to the bottom of the world rankings.  For the 2014 qualifying campaign, the head of  the American Samoan FA turned to the US Soccer Federation and they supplied unorthodox Dutch coach Thomas Rongen to take over as head coach.  The British documentary team of Kristian Brodie, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison were on hand to see what happened next.  It is an amazing story, made even more impressive when the film introduces you to Jaiyah Saelua, the world's first internationally capped transgender footballer.  Next Goal WIns is an uplifting and joyful film to watch and you cheer this tiny nation on as they attempt the impossible.

Number Six

Monsters: Dark Continent 

I've already written a review of this one here, but it needs to be said again, it is a brilliant film.  Taking the premise of Gareth Edwards original Monsters and expanding it into a larger world, Tom Green opens the scope, but keeps closely trained on the human aspect.  This asking more than the first, who really are the monsters.  Johnny Harris and Sam Keeley brilliantly carry the film and they are ably supported by Nicholas Pinnock and Kyle Stoller, who will reappear later in this list.  Have a look at the full review for more, but I'm really looking forward to seeing this again.

Number Five

Mr Turner

It is rare in the Bone Family that a film comes along that we all want to see, 2014 gave us two and this was the first.  So a family outing was planned to see Mike Leigh's latest film, Mr Turner.  Charting the second half of the great J.W.M. Turner's life, when his art took a turn from the amazing to the pure genius.  Leigh's film follows a rather irascible Turner, played incredibly by a grunting, moody, belligerent Tim Spall, through the events that lead him to create his legacy.  My father's complaint is shared with many, there is no plot, but that isn't the point.  It is the journey, the man who you don't really like, but creates works we truly love, that creates a wonderful film.  Shot with what feels like brushstrokes and beautifully framed, it is an experience to behold.

Number Four

Calvary

No film of the year list should be without Brendan Gleeson.  In his second feature with writer-director John Michael McDonagh, Gleeson plays a Catholic priest, Father James, in a small Irish seaside town populated with the usual bunch of rather odd Irish types.  One morning, while taking a confession, he is told by a man that he was abused by a priest as a boy.  The man says that killing another bad Catholic priest will do nothing, he will kill a good one instead and he has chosen Father James.  The killing will take place on the following Sunday.  The film unwinds over the course of the week and we see James try to reconnect with his daughter and come to terms with morality, faith and his place in it all.  Gleeson is incredible throughout and the supporting cast of Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillian, Chris O'Dowd and Gleeson's son Domhnall, expand what is a very tight film into an incredibly moving character study.  

Number Three

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If no best of list is complete without Brendan Gleeson, the same can be said of Wes Anderson.  Mr Anderson is divisive to say the least.  He is the Hipster god of filmmaking and The Grand Budapest Hotel has been described as a Hipster Travelogue, which isn't far from the truth.  What saves it is the manic energy, the unusual oddness and Ralph Fiennes.  All Wes Anderson films look incredible, the perfect framing, the stop motion segments and usually Bill Murray popping up from time to time.  But this film is built on Fiennes' M. Gustave, the Grand's concierge.  The rate at with dialogue flies out of him makes you worry for his health, but without spoiling the surprises along the way, it is a fantastic turn and wonderful journey through Zubrowka which you never want to end, until it does, which, unfortunately it does.

Number Two

Paddington

Ellie and I wrote a review of Paddington here, which sums up the surprising joy of this film.  As family outings go, this one with all three generations of Bones, this was a true moment we will hold forever.  You don't walk into a Paddington movie expecting more than family fare, but as a Mighty Boosh and Bunny and the Bull fan, I should have known better.  Paul King, writer-director of Paddington sets the tone within moments, introducing up to the explorers most important bit of kit, the traveler's piano.  It only gets better from there, from Paddington arriving at the station he his named after at the feet of his own statue, through his troubles with "The Facilities" to the delightfully silly ending, I find myself wondering why I haven't put it at number one!  But I haven't, here is why.

Number One

The Keeping Room

This years London Film Festival gave me two of my top seven films of the year.  I bought a ticket for The Keeping Room (LFF review here) on the basis of its Western-ness and Daniel Barber.  Barber's first film was the geriatric revenge film Harry Brown, starring Michael Caine.  Harry Brown is remarkable, The Keeping Room is even better.  It was the third film I saw that day, but I was transfixed.  Brit Marling is Augusta, who is trying to keep he home alive as the Civil War draws ever closer.  While Marling holds the emotional centre, it is Muna Otaru as the slave Mad who is the revelation.  The pain and understanding she portrays is heartbreaking to behold.  The biggest star of the bunch is Sam Worthington, playing a Union scout with orders to cause chaos and fear, but keeps the menace so closely reigned in, a control that in itself is terrifyingly effective.  Monsters: Dark Continent alum Kyle Stoller and Nicholas Pinnock return as Union soldiers, the former being the overt menace while the latter on a very different mission.  From the opening minutes to the final scenes around The Keeping Room, I was transfixed.  While it is still waiting for a release, when it finally does hit, I hope it gets the all praise I feel it truly deserves.

Bring on 2015, lets see what you've got.